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Thursday, March 26, 2015

#TBT How Do You Know When a Cow is Pregnant?

I am very excited to have my first guest post in the #TBT series.  This week's post is from Miss Julie Vrazel Tomascik of Tomascik Farms.  You can also see her adorable calves each week on Facebook. Did you know that ranchers check their cows to see if they are pregnant and there has certainly been an evolution in that area in the last several year.  See as Julie explains it. -A Kansas Farm Mom

All expectant mothers have one thing in common. The pregnancy test.  

And it’s the same for cattle.

As third generation cattle ranchers in Central Texas, my husband and I do things just a bit differently than our great-grandparents.

Okay. More than a bit.

Our great-grandparents would leave the bulls with the cows all year, which meant they’d have calves born at any time during the year. And that makes it more difficult to keep track of breeding efficiency.  And ultimately, cow productivity.

But we have more defined breeding seasons. Our cows are bred during a 90-day period in the winter or late spring. That means we turn the bulls out only during that time.

Enter the pregnancy test.

Our great-grandparents just waited (year-round) for calves to come after 9 months. But my husband and I are more efficient. We check for pregnancy, rather than waiting with uncertainty for 9 months.

Our version of the pregnancy test for cattle includes palpation, an ultrasound or taking a blood sample.

Palpation: It’s a manual examination of the reproductive tract.
Picture from UC Davis site.

Ultrasound: Uses the same equipment that medical doctors use for pregnant women. The pregnancy technician can identify pregnancy at an earlier stage.
Photo courtesy of Dairy Carrie who with her vet uses ultrasound technology to pregnancy check  her cows and predict the gender of calves before they are born.

Blood test: A blood sample is drawn and submitted to a laboratory.

So, we’ve become more efficient with each generation of agriculture. We can identify pregnancy and have a calf crop born within a certain timeframe, which makes marketing our cattle easier.

Do you have any questions that we can answer about the pregnancy tests?  We could probably have them pee on a stick and get the results just like humans, but I can tell you that cows do not pee on demand without the help of lasix.  I will also tell you (from experience) that when you are 7 months pregnant, it is raining outside, and 42 degrees, that waiting to collect urine from a group of cows that have been injected with lasix is not very much fun.  -KFM

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Much Science is Around Me?

While at Commodity Classic 2015, there were lots of opportunities to learn from others in the farming business.  I was very excited to sit in on a session sponsored by the Ohio Corn and Soybean Farmers where they have been working to help 60 high school teachers understand more about farming.

While teachers are intellectually curious, 

science teachers are admittedly 5 years behind what is going on with research.  

 Ohio corn and soybean farmers have asked the question:

"How do we help them catch up?"

While there are many educational sites on the internet for science lessons, the teachers insist that the best part of the program in Ohio was the summer session with lots of educational ideas AND time with real life farmers.  Teachers get to ask all kinds of questions of the farmers, industry professionals and university scientists.  These discussions and conversations leave the teachers with resources (farmers) they can call on when they need help.

I loved seeing these teachers in the trade show.  How did I know who they were?  They were the ones wearing the tie dyed lab coats everywhere they went.  They were also asking the tough questions about biotechnology in all the technology company booths.

 Online Resources

There are some great curriculum ideas on the site Ohio Corn Education like the stream sampling activity that we did.  Not only do the students analyze whether the stream is in good shape or not, but they also brainstorm for reasons why it is in the condition it is and how to improve it. The following are categories found for curriculum on their site.
  • Biotechnology
  • Energy and Ethanol
  • Feeding the World
  • Growing Ohio
  • Soil and Sustainability
  • Water Quality

There are even more curriculum ideas on the page GrowNextGen.  On this site, the lessons are broke down into the following groups:
  • Agriscience
  • Biology/Biotech 
  • Chemistry
  • Informal Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Career Videos
  • eLearning Courses

The Coolest Teaching Idea?

I thought the most innovative idea I heard about was the science teacher that cleared a parcel of land close to the school, so the kids could grow their own corn test plot.  The students had to harvest by hand, count the number of rows and seeds per row to estimate yield.  They learned what husking and shucking and shelling meant.  What the teacher did next was what took this idea to the next level.  The students took the corn into the lab and produced ethanol with the corn that they had raised.  How cool is that?!?!

The best quote I heard from this program was, we are:

"Giving the message of good science, so they are smarter with their decisions and not followers of the messengers of bad information."

The 60 science teachers that are participating in the program are impacting 12,120 students per year.

How can you help a science teacher in your local school? 
Do they need someone to ask questions of?

-A Kansas Farm Mom